"I've heard that reaction to people stealing material, that they don't care that someone's stealing: 'As long as I laugh.' That's gross. That's like if you buy a car and it's a stolen car, you don't care if it's a stolen car because you get to drive it. Then some poor person is crying, missing their car. That's just anti-human."
– Joe Rogan
Guy MacPherson: I know you wear many proverbial hats. Is it safe to say that standup is your favourite?
Joe Rogan: Yeah, definitely. Comedy, I think, is the most rewarding art form to me. It's the most enjoyable to watch. I love watching comedy. It's the most enjoyable to perform. I think it's just the coolest job on the planet.
GM: I talk to so many comedians, who also have success in acting, and they all, almost, agree. There's something about comedy that keeps them at it, no matter how big they get. How do you explain it?
JR: One of the ways you explain it is it's an immediate reaction. The audience is right there. You tell the joke, they laugh, and you just get this big positive energy rush from them. And it actually makes people feel better. When you do a comedy club, there's all these people that are sitting there, watching and laughing. You're literally changing the way their physical body feels. They're laughing, they feel better, they've got all this positive energy. Like, I just did some shows in Nashville and I had a buddy of mine come down to see me and he was telling me how he had this tough day at work this week, had all this stress, he was going through all these business problems. And he just had so much fun. He goes, "Man, it just lifted it all away. I feel great now. I feel fantastic." That's a rare art form. An art form that actually changes your physical and your emotional state. It's really powerful. That exchange between the audience member and the comedian is really rewarding. It's amazing.
GM: But even the so-called hacks have this. The average person who goes to a club will still laugh even though it's a joke that's been done to death by others.
JR: Yeah, they don't know. If you're a fan of comedy and you're a fan of a certain comedian, and you catch them doing something that's really hacky or something that you know is stolen from another comedian, it's so depressing. It's so disappointing. Because it's like, "Oh God, I thought this guy was being real with me. And now I realize he was being a whore."
GM: But that's for the diehard comedy fans. But others maybe go to a comedy club a couple times a year and aren't so discerning. So it's a positive experience for them even though it may not be for the comedy purist.
JR: I mean, it is positive for them, but that positive for them is only positive if they're unaware. If they're aware of what's going on, then it's negative. If they're aware of what's going on and they don't care... I've heard that reaction to people stealing material, that they don't care that someone's stealing: "As long as I laugh." That's gross. That's like if you buy a car and it's a stolen car, you don't care if it's a stolen car because you get to drive it. Then some poor person is crying, missing their car. That's just anti-human.
GM: I read you got started in standup on a dare.
JR: Well, not really a dare. I got talked into doing comedy by my friends.
GM: Because you were the funny guy in the group?
JR: I guess so. I thought I was funny to them because I thought they were my friends and I make them laugh. But I thought other people aren't going to laugh. Other people are going to think I'm an asshole. (laughs) My psychic manner is always fucked up and dark. I'm just too honest about things. I say things you're not supposed to say but maybe are true. So that's what my comedy is like.
GM: From the beginning? I was wondering if we'd recognize the early Joe Rogan, standup comic.
JR: Before I was ever a comic, I would do impressions of my friends. I'm only good at some impressions. My voice can only fit a certain amount of other people's voices, but when I can get 'em, I can get 'em good. So there were a few of my friends that I could impressions of. Dead-on impressions of them. And have them in these ridiculous scenarios. And that's how my friends talked me into doing comedy. Because I was always making them laugh, doing impressions of my friends.
GM: But on stage, I doubt that would work.
JR: Right, that's not going to translate. I've always loved comedy. I've loved comedy since I was a little kid. I just really didn't think I could do it. Then when I listened to my friends, I thought, maybe I should just start writing some of my ideas down. So for like six months before I ever went on stage, I just had some ideas and I would write them down. And then I would figure out a way to tell them in front of an audience and try to mimic how I thought a professional comedian would make it sound. Most of it was awful.
GM: Did you go through a period where you were doing hacky stuff?
JR: I definitely went through a period where I was covering some well-trod ground, as far as material. You know, men are different than women, dogs are different than cats. The stupid shit most comedians start out with. I think there are three different stages of comedy. That's the way I've got it broken down, in my opinion. Stage number one is you do anything to get a laugh. You're just trying to get people to laugh at you. That's the early stage. That's when you do stuff you might not even think is funny; you're just hoping audiences think it's funny. Then once you get more comfortable on stage, once you get your stage legs, then I started doing stuff I thought was funny. That's stage two. You start doing things that make you laugh. Things that actually would make you laugh if you someone else do on stage. And then stage three is, here's the world through my eyes. Stage three is more, here's my philosophy. You figure out a way to translate your ideas, your unique thoughts, or at least your honest, objective and introspective thoughts on the world, on life, on everything, your philosophies... You figure out a way to get humour out of things that, if you look at it on paper you might not see funny in it. Not obvious funny. Like, one of my biggest bits is about the de-evolution of man. It's about how dumb people are outbreeding smart people. It's this really complicated bit that's really long that explains the creation of the pyramids. It's really that dumb people outbred smart people and the pyramids were left over because all the smart people died off. And I basically equate that to what's going on right now in our culture and our life. I think it's probably real that dumb people really are outbreeding intelligent people. It's sort of like a byproduct of technology. Technology and innovation make life easier, make it easier for people to exist. But conversely, whenever you make things easier for people, they get lazier. Whenever you make things easy for lazy people to survive, more lazy people will survive. Why would someone push themselves and suffer when they don't have to? Why would someone study really hard when they can get an easy job that pays the bills and is fairly mindless? Most people would take the latter than the former.
GM: This is something that's just been stewing in your head that you finally formulated?
JR: Yeah. It's just my views of the world. And that's become comedy. And that, to me, is the last level of comedy, the level where you can project your philosophies and get your ideas through to people that wouldn't necessarily be funny on paper.
GM: Is there room for the silly comic?
JR: Yeah, absolutely. I'm not a comedy purist. Comedy is comedy. One of my best friends, who I think is one of the funniest people on the planet, has never said a profound thing in his fucking life (laughs). He's a big, fat cocaine addict that I met who's hilarious. And all the jokes are just simple and crude and silly. And he makes me laugh till I cry. I think comedy is comedy, you know? And everyone's comedy is different. Some people just tell jokes and they're little joke-jokes, and that's fine. It's not a bad thing.
GM: They wouldn't have reached level three, then. They would have stopped at level two?
JR: Sure. And to them, that's where they want to go. There's nothing wrong with that. You know what it's like? The way I always describe reality television. People would complain about reality television ruining television and ruining America. I disagree. No more than fast food ruined human beings' dietary habits. You choose to have fast food ruin your dietary habit. You know, sometimes I want a fucking cheeseburger, okay? And I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Sometimes I want to sit down to a nice healthy meal of fish and vegetables and eat well, and sometimes I just want a cheeseburger! There's nothing wrong with that. And I think silly comedy is very enjoyable. Just like a cheeseburger is. There's nothing wrong with it.
GM: Someone like Brian Regan is nothing more than silly and funny.
JR: Exactly. Hilarious. He's a perfect example. He's hilarious, silly, unconfrontational, he's not aggressive, he's not pointing things out. He's hilarious. It's great, enjoyable comedy.
GM: How old were you when you started?
JR: I was 21.
GM: You advanced pretty quickly, didn't you?
JR: Um... I mean, I don't know. I mean, I'm still advancing. I think comedy is a living thing, a living organism. It's very much like a living thing because if you neglect it, it'll die. If you take time away from it, it atrophies. The last time I took more than two weeks off, I had knee surgery in 2003, I think. I took like a month off. Man, you get back on stage and you don't even know how to tell a fucking joke (laughs). It's hilarious. Comedy is a very, very weird thing. It's like a living thing. It's your living thoughts and ideas. And it has to be nourished.
GM: I should have phrased it differently. I mean you got well-known early from things like NewsRadio.
JR: Yeah, from things that didn't have to do with standup comedy.
GM: Did you get NewsRadio because they knew who you were as a standup? Or was it just a blind audition?
JR: I got NewsRadio because I had done another sitcom before NewsRadio called Hardball, a baseball sitcom. And I got that sitcom because I had done standup comedy and they saw me on MTV.
GM: There are people who probably started out with you who maybe have tried and just can't get to that next level. And maybe they're great comics, too.
JR: Yeah, there are some great comics for sure that a lot of people haven't heard of. A lot of it I've been lucky. And I'm also very persistent. I've always done well in auditions. Also my background. I came from a martial arts background, which is different from a lot of comedians' backgrounds. I don't think I was as afraid of auditions and as afraid of performing as some people. Some people have great anxiety that really hampers their creative expression.
GM: Yes, I read where you credit Tae Kwon Do for your discipline and focus and I was thinking that's rare in standup, isn't it? So many standups are out of shape and maladjusted, not to cast a wide net or anything!
JR: Yeah, but that is the wide net to cast, if you're going to cast one. Because yeah, most comics are comics because they are unhappy and they want, somehow or another, people to love them. So they will say funny things. And they figure out what that formula is that will make people laugh at them. And they just keep getting that positive reaction in that arena where they're not getting it in the rest of their lives. It's the tears of a clown. It's a classic cliche. But that's not necessarily a rule. People think that you have to be unhealthy. And I thought that myself. There was a long period of time in my life where I thought you couldn't be very enlightened and be a comic. To be a comic you always had to be dark and fucked up. And there were parts of times in my life where I purposely avoided meditating. I avoided doing things like yoga and stuff like that because I thought that it would actually hurt my comedy. The more I've gotten older and the more I've gotten into that kind of stuff, the more I realize it helps my comedy in a massive way.
GM: A lot of comics live unhealthy lifestyles with the drinking and the drugs. They think that's the lifestyle you gotta live as a comic.
JR: Well, in a certain way they're right. (laughs) You see, one of the things that really makes a comic funny is your ability to be uninhibited and unhampered by society's projections of who you should be or society's standards of behaviour and on crassness and on blunt thought and blunt expression. And one of the best ways to bypass all those social roadblocks is something that's going to lighten up your inhibitions. And the best way to do that is alcohol or drugs or marijuana. Those are the best ways. So in some ways they're right. The whole package has to be thought of as one gigantic organism or one gigantic entity. And the more you put negative stuff into that, like if you're doing heroin or something like that, there's just no ifs, ands or buts about it, that stuff is bad for you. It's going to mess up your life. You're going to be addicted to it. It's going to totally screw your mind up. And you know what? Initially you might be able to come up with some great jokes while you're on heroin, but then it's going to crash you and wreck your life. So what is more important? Is it more important to have a good life and be happy and healthy or is it more important to squeak out whatever those couple of jokes that heroin could produce for you? We know that there are some drugs that will create these altered states of consciousness that aren't going to fuck you up permanently. Like psilocybin or marijuana, those are pretty innocuous substances. Those are the ones that I stick to. I believe that there are natural what they call entheogens, natural plants that produce psychedelic states and produce altered states of consciousness that are actually beneficial that don't harm your body. But you have to be aware of what these are and what are the good ones. And what's the purpose of these altered states of consciousness. I mean, are you doing it just for a goof? Or are you doing it because you're trying to find some things out about yourself? Are you doing it because you're on a legitimate journey of curiousity or are you doing it just because you're trying to escape reality? And that's always the knock on drugs, that you're trying to escape reality. I disagree. I think the real important drugs, the psychedelic drugs, you're not escaping reality at all; you're turning all the lights on. You're just opening up all the doors and you look at reality from a huge, huge perspective, from this gigantic, objective point of view that is almost impossible to do without the psychedelics.
GM: Are you aware of Vancouver's reputation?
JR: And who isn't?! (laughs) That's one reason I'm coming up there. It is! I did a movie. These guys from Vancouver, they did this movie called The Union, and it's all about the marijuana trade in Vancouver and how much of a huge part of the economy that is. I played a part in that movie. I was one of the people he interviewed.
GM: They call it Vansterdam.
JR: Yeah. I'm looking forward to it, man. That's a perfect example right there. Vancouver has a problem with heroin. Heroin's a terrible drug. And the reason why people don't know that heroin's a terrible drug is because the government has fucking lied to us so many times about marijuana [that] people just think they lie about everything. There are some drugs that are really bad and what we need is intelligent people telling you there are some drugs that are really bad. We need some people telling you, "Hey, man, listen. There's some stuff that's not going to hurt you." What is pot going to do? Yeah, you might get paranoid. You might get the munchies. Then you're going to want to take a nap. You might get lazy. But it's not going to kill you, okay? It's not going to ruin your life. There are some things that will kill you, that willruin your life. The problem with the negative propaganda is that erodes confidence in what might really be beneficial for people to learn about the affects of certain drugs. That whole "this is your brain on drugs", yeah, it's your brain on some drugs. I mean, that's true with some drugs. But just some drugs. It's not true with all drugs.
GM: Talk about casting a wide net.
JR: Yeah, and the problem with this wide net of drugs is that everything falls under the gigantic blanket of 'drugs'. It's just one term for things that are good and things that are bad. I mean, caffeine is in the same net as cocaine. Alcohol is under the same net as crystal meth. All those things under one gigantic roof like that is just silly.
GM: About your martial arts background and the style of comedy that you do, I'm thinking that if you piss anyone off you can protect yourself. Has it ever come to that?
JR: No, it hasn't. But can you really? People have weapons. I don't look to fight. When I do martial arts, I do it because it's fun. If it comes down to a physical confrontation, I like to know that I can defend myself, but really to me it's like a sport. It's like playing tennis but instead of tennis I strangle people.
GM: But you are outspoken and opinionated on stage. Has it ever gotten you in trouble? Especially when you draw from such a wide group of fans who know you from your various TV endeavours.
JR: People will disagree for sure. Especially close-minded, simple-minded people. They will get very upset if you have a different opinion than they do. Especially if your opinion is obviously more intelligent or better thought out, it scares them. Instead of thinking, "Wow, maybe this guy has a point", they're like, "Well, fuck you!" There's that always. There are always going to be people who violently want to defend their stupid ideas. That's always the case.
GM: Does the famous clip on YouTube that shows you putting a heckler in her place bring out more hecklers or are people now more afraid to shout things out?
JR: I think the people that see it, it's gotta be in the back of their head, like, "I don't want that shit on the internet!" (laughs)
GM: But there are always people who just want to be part of the show.
JR: There are people who think they're helping you but usually I can squash that pretty easily. I mean, I don't want anybody coming to the show having a bad time. I want them to come and have fun. That's what it's all about. The only reason I have to deal with it at all is because I want to keep the fun rolling.
"If you build a bonfire, the bigger the fire grows, the more darkness you expose. The more things you learn, the more you realize you don't know shit. I mean you really don't know shit."
– Joe Rogan
GM: With your new CD, Shiny Happy Jihad, have you heard from the Muslim community?
JR: That's so funny you say that. I got an angry Muslim letter yesterday from some guy. It's hilarious. It was such a dumb email. He was explaining to me how regular people are stupid and Muslims are smart because of the way Muslims wipe their ass. Americans wipe their ass with toilet paper; Muslims use water. They have a bidet. It's the dumbest shit. That was his take on ideology. They were correct because they clean their ass better. Like as if that makes up for thousands of years of fairy tales. It's a very weird thing. People love a predetermined pattern of behaviour and thought that they can just subscribe to and that will eliminate any need for thinking and analysis or any really serious introspection that troubles and puzzles people, where you're going to have to really sit down and do some soul searching. There are a lot of people that just don't want to do that. There are a lot of people that don't want to realize that life is a massive mystery. No one has a handle on it. Not you, not me, no one. We're all going through this together. The best thing we have is we can be honest about the situation and honest about the experience we're going through and hope that we can gain some sort of comfort from other people's honesty and go through it all together. But what is it? Who the fuck knows? There's a great quote by Dennis McKenna, who's this psychedelic philosopher. He was the brother of this guy, Terence McKenna, who was this genius guy who wrote all these great books. The two brothers wrote a bunch of books together. He said as the sphere of understanding grows wider, the surface area of ignorance also grows wider. The way they equate it was if you build a bonfire, the bigger the fire grows, the more darkness you expose. The more things you learn, the more you realize you don't know shit. I mean you really don't know shit. The whole idea of the universe, that's the one thing people avoid in their daily lives. I have this whole bit about the universe, about how people will travel to see things like the Grand Canyon and they never look at space. They'll travel to see something that's not nearly as interesting. And when you start introducing these thoughts into your brain, it makes religion very very difficult to swallow.
GM: They think they have all the answers.
JR: Exactly. And it's a substitute for real curiosity. It's a substitute for real thought. It's like, "We'll teach you how to think. You just hop aboard. Here, we've got it all planned out for you. Here's your thought manual."
GM: These days you're every comic's hero with your outing of Carlos Mencia and Dane Cook.
JR: I'm not joke thieves' hero.
GM: Are you happy in this role?
JR: I'm happy that we have exposed some real big problems in this comedy community. I'm happy that the internet exists. Because we've always had the problem of joke thieves. That problem has existed way back to the Catskills days. There's been a million comedians that have made a career without ever being particularly insightful or particularly creative or without having to work hard. They just kind of mimicked and repeated things that other people have said. And it's really kind of fucked up.
GM: The old school comics bought their material. Do you have a problem with that?
JR: No! There's nothing wrong with that. That's very honest. It's an honest exchange. There's nothing wrong with that whatsoever. There's absolutely nothing wrong with buying material. What's really hostile is when someone gets victimized. And what you're seeing with this Carlos Mencia character, for every joke that you see him steal or they expose him on YouTube, where you see him stealing from Bill Cosby, for every Bill Cosby joke, there's 30 kids that you've never heard of that only have 25 minutes of material and he's stolen five of them. And they want to fucking kill him. That's real.
GM: For me, it's not one or two jokes that convinced me, but the totality of it. From Cosby, from Sam Kinison...
JR: There's another one that someone recently told me about he stole from George Carlin. On Mind of Mencia they did a joke almost verbatim that's an old George Carlin joke. I mean, he's a scumbag. He's a plagiarist. That's just a fact.
GM: Do you go after him and Cook because they're so successful? There are many other thieves who aren't that successful.
JR: I've gone after Carlos from the beginning. I've been saying that that guy's a thief since 1993. He's always been a scumbag. From the moment I met him. I was friends with him when I first came to L.A. and within a couple months of meeting him I realized he was a plagiarist. It just took a little while.
GM: In the beginning when you were just discovering it, were you giving him the benefit of the doubt?
JR: Well, I talked to him about it. The first person I saw him steal from was a guy named Paul Mooney. Paul Mooney is really well-respected amongst standup comedians in Los Angeles. He wrote for Richard Pryor. He's a brilliant guy. A very original thinker. And Carlos was doing jokes that he was doing. And I'm like, "Man, those are really similar jokes. Like, what's up, man?" He was like, "No, man, I've been doing that forever." And then I saw him do a Dave Chappelle bit verbatim that I saw Dave do in New York and I was like, "Okay, the guy's a thief." And I brought it up to him and he denied it again and that was it, I stopped hanging out with him. And I just didn't think he was going to make it like that. That's the crazy thing, that this guy has existed as this plagiarist and has carved out a career. Especially when it's very well known in the business that he's a plagiarist. For all the people that don't know, the people that come to the comedy clubs that come to see him and just want to have a good time, for them, that's innocent. They're enjoying something and they don't know where it's coming from. But the agents and the club owners and the people that put him out in front of those people, they know what's going on. They know they're selling stolen goods. The guy's a fucking thief. He's a criminal. He's no different than a guy who steals cars.
GM: I blame the enablers. The executives at Comedy Central are people whose jobs are knowing and respecting comedy. And they obviously know. When a reporter at the New York Times plagiarizes a paragraph, they're fired.
JR: You're preaching to the choir, man. And in music, if someone steals riffs, that becomes a big court case and they go over it in court. Intellectual property in standup comedy is not thought of being that important.
GM: Right. So he can't be taken to court, but the executives at Comedy Central, who supposedly love comedy, allow him to stay on the air. They should go, "Hey, you know what? We made a mistake here. We can't support this."
JR: I agree, man. It's really messed up. I've accused Comedy Central and they were furious at me because they were the ones that put out my CD. And I basically said, "Look, you guys are selling stolen goods. And you know it." And they do know it. There's a huge hole in the business that needs to be filled, and that hole is the Latino comedian. I mean, there's a big market for Latino comedy and there's not that many Latino comedians. There's only a handful of comedians and a huge amount of audience members. That's why he's got a fake name. I mean, he's got a Latino name for a reason. His name is Ned Holness. That's his real name.
GM: But he is Latino.
JR: He's half German and half Honduran. He sells himself as a Mexican. He tries not to now, and the reason why he tries not to is directly attributable to me. Because for ever I've been calling him the phony Mexican. And so he's had to kind of expose himself, had to kind of admit that he's not really Mexican. I've seen him on stage saying he's Mexican. I mean, he's just a piece of shit. He really is. It's so disappointing when people I know that are in this business and make their living selling art, whether they're agents or club owners, their living is only made from selling art. If the Comedy Store doesn't have comedians in there, they have nothing. They're not funny themselves. They're not going to come up with their own material and entertain these people that come and pay 20 dollars a ticket. Those people are coming because they're selling art. And the art they're selling is stolen. And they know it. And they don't care. It's like they're supporting a certain amount of cannibalism. Like they're encouraging a very small amount of cancer.
GM: They're selling the Dogs Playing Poker version of art.
JR: Yeah, exactly.
GM: Alonzo Bodden was at Yuk Yuk's a couple weeks ago and he did the same joke about the wall that you nailed Mencia on.
JR: Did he really?
GM: Yes. And I had asked him about it beforehand. He didn't say he did it, but he said it was a bad example of plagiarism because everyone does that joke. It's the obvious joke to make.
JR: Everybody does that joke, then don't do that joke. Wow, that's one of the reasons that Alonzo Bodden is not really... I don't know. I like Alonzo.
GM: It was just the one line.
JR: I know it's just a one-liner. It's like when it comes back to the three levels of comedy. Are you really doing that because you think it's funny? You can't. And if you know that a bunch of other people are doing that, then don't fucking do it. But you know what? That's Alonzo. Alonzo's not a thief. And that is a hacky joke. It's an obvious premise. As far as a piece of evidence against Carlos, it's not a good example because it's kind of an obvious joke. The comic mind is automatically going to go there. You're going to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico. Well, what are Mexicans known for? They're known for working. So who's going to build the wall? It's going to be Mexicans. I mean, the joke is right there. It's so obvious. But I would think that as a comic you would want to avoid that if at all possible. The last thing you'd want to do is tell something that you know everybody has heard. Even if only two people in the audience are comedy connoisseurs and they're enjoying your performance, and then you tell that joke, they go, "Oh, God." Even if the whole rest of the audience is laughing, that "Oh, God" to me is worse than bombing. I would rather do a joke that I wrote myself that just fucking eats a bag of dicks and fucking slams right into the dirt, I would rather do that than do a joke that most of the crowd laughs at but a couple of the people in the audience that really understand comedy just go, "Oh, God, why did you tell that one? You know that's not yours."
GM: Do you have anything positive to say about Carlos or Dane?
JR: They're hard workers. They have a great work ethic.
GM: Not in writing, apparently.
JR: No, not at all. Well, they're not creative. I think Dane is more creative than Carlos. Dane is just ruthlessly ambitious. And he's been known for that for a while. But I think Dane has done an incredible job promoting himself. And I think that a lot of comedians have kind of learned from him. And he's changed the way a lot of comedians use the internet. I know he's changed the way I use the internet. His success through MySpace totally made me start a MySpace page. I didn't have a MySpace page before Dane.
GM: And it helps?
JR: Oh, yeah, it definitely helps promote shows. A hundred percent. No doubt about it. It makes a big impact.
GM: The emcees and middle acts you work with must be terrified of working with you for fear of being called out on their material.
JR: I always work with guys I know.
GM: But when you're up here...
JR: I'm bringing a guy with me.
GM: Oh, really? Who?
JR: His name is Ari Shaffir, the guy from the video. Ari's a very original, funny guy and he works on his own stuff and he writes and he's a friend. It's hard working with comics when you're on the road because when you have a show and you go on stage and you grab the microphone and say, "Hey, how's everybody doing?", they've already seen some comedy. Their mind has already been turned into a certain place. And if you're going on after a hack, man, you got some work to do to clean up the mess. It's a real problem. They establish a certain way of thinking. I mean, what comedy really is is almost like, I don't want to say hypnosis because you're not changing the way people think, but what you're really doing is you're tuning them into the way you think. You're allowing them access to the way your mind works. And if you have a group of people that have just witnessed a really shitty mind, and they've enjoyed it, first of all you lose a little respect for them, so that kind of sucks. You go on after a guy who sucks and you go, "Oh, God, you guys were laughing at that?" Fucking morons. They're just used to shit. It changes the frequency of the room. So I always bring guys with me that I know are funny, original young comedians that people haven't heard of. I try to help those guys. A lot of the guys that I work with on the road, I take them with me to a couple of clubs, then they come back like a year later and they headline these clubs.
GM: And the locals know about them ahead of time.
JR: Exactly. Like, if I go to a club with a guy, that guy will develop a following in that club. Every time I'm going there, he's doing a half an hour and having all these people laugh at him for half an hour, and they all love him and they go back home and go, "Oh, my God, we had such a great time. We went to see Joe Rogan and he had this guy, Ari Shaffir, who opened for him. He was so hilarious! It was such a great show." And then they read in the paper, they hear on the radio, "Hey, Ari Shaffir's in town again and this time he's without Joe. He was hilarious. Let's go see him." And then they go and then he develops a following. The next thing you know Ari's a headliner. That's how it works. That's how it should work. That's the right way.
GM: Were you a producer on Fear Factor or just the host?
JR: No, I was just a host. I would show up and go, "What? Are you fucking kidding me?" (laughs)
Every day, you know?
GM: Were you surprised at what people would stoop to for fame and fortune?
JR: Sort of, but no. As I get older I'm less and less surprised by anything that human beings do.
GM: Was it a good experience on the show?
JR: It was a great job. It was interesting. But it was just a job, you know? It's just a job that millions of people got to see. It was very unusual and a very unique financial opportunity, but it wasn't standup comedy. It was just weird.
GM: But that's part of being a show biz professional, isn't it? Taking jobs that maybe you don't like so much and it allows you to do what you really love.
JR: It definitely does a lot of good things. People are more aware of you. It makes you more popular. That's for sure. That's a great thing. It puts you out there more so people know your name and then maybe they'll come see you do other stuff. Like, I would say only 30 percent of the people who know me know that I'm a standup comedian. And if I hadn't done Fear Factor, how many people that have come out to the clubs would have actually come? I don't know, you know? Maybe I wouldn't have done anything that would have reached that many people. I mean, I don't know. Ideally, it probably would have been better if I had done something comedy oriented so that they would know that I'm a comedian and then they come to see me. Because to be really famous but to not be known for the thing you do best is very odd. It's a strange situation. But it's not bad. It's not a bad situation. I mean, it's all good. It's all fun.
GM: Doug Stanhope had nothing good to say about The Man Show. What was your take on it?
JR: The Man Show was not what we thought it was going to be. We were told that we were going to be able to do nudity, and they would blur it out. We were told that we were going to be able to swear, and they would beep it out. We were told that we would be able to do a wild and crazy show. They were like, "Listen, we want to have a different show. You're doing this new version of The Man Show so we want it to be really outrageous. We want it to be crazy. We want it to be nuts. We think you two guys are perfect for it." And we got sold a bill of goods, you know? We got in there and it was just censorship, censorship, censorship, man. And just ridiculous censorship. The best example of how ridiculous it was: We had a game show that we did called 'Make Me Hard'. And the game show was we'd put a box on a guy's penis and the box had a little electronic light at the end of it. And we had midgets eating bananas and trannies and all these different things. Silly. Well, they were fine with the trannies, but they weren't fine with the expression hard. They wanted us to change it to 'Make Me Stiff'. That was a real argument. They wanted to change it to a word that's equally inoffensive but means the exact same thing with no confusion whatsoever, but for whatever reason they decided that stiff was more palatable than hard. I mean, that's how fucking dumb some of these conversations were. These are not creative people you're dealing with. They're people that have influence over creative decisions but they're not creative! They're not funny! They don't get it! It's a fucking mess. I read something recently on The Colbert Report. They had some script that Comedy Central rejected. It had to do with abortion and it was really funny. I read it and it was really hilarious. They're just so fucking terrified of anything that's going to offend people, anything that's going to be the next Janet Jackson nipple episode.
GM: You'd think that if you were worried about that kind of stuff you wouldn't hire Joe Rogan and Doug Stanhope.
JR: Well, they thought that they could water us down significantly. I mean, that's what happened with The Chappelle Show. The Chappelle Show fell apart because they were trying to get him to do a bunch of shit that he didn't want to do. They were trying to get him to stop saying the word nigger, they were trying to get him to really water it down. They were trying to make a fucking billion dollars off that show. They offered him this big gigantic deal and in that big gigantic deal came with it a lot of people getting their hands in it. The only way to do a show like that, a sketch show with comedy and comics, is you gotta have a bunch of creative people and you gotta let them fucking go. Let them go off.
GM: Let it live or die based on them.
JR: Yeah, based on what's funny.
GM: Are you going to be Stanhope's running mate in his presidential campaign?
JR: I think he's actually going to bail. Yeah, the FCC is really fucked up. The way the FCC is, if he's running for president and he gets on stage and talks about his candidacy at all, then that money has to be thought of as campaign contributions and he can't use it as a source of income. There's a lot of problems.
GM: You're not talking just about TV or radio.
JR: Even if he does clubs. Not only that, but if he does radio, they have to give equal time. If he does ten minutes of the Howard Stern Show, the Howard Stern Show is now required to give equal time to everyone else. If you're going to have a presidential candidate on, you have to give equal time to everyone else. Yeah, it's a mess.
GM: He's coming up here in a couple of weeks.
JR: He's a great guy. Fucking hilarious, too. He's one of those guys that is not known enough. For as funny as he is he should be known more. He's a brilliant comedian. He's funny dude. And he works really hard. He's always writing new material.
GM: Are there any comics you hear where even you can't believe they said what they said? Because you pretty much say what's on your mind regardless of the consequences.
JR: My friend Brian Holtzman. He's hilarious. He's a crazy guy who lives in L.A. He's unfortunately one of those guys that probably no one is ever going to hear about, but he's a genius comedian. He says the most fucked up shit (laughs). Do you remember Susan Smith, the woman that drowned her kids?
JR: He went on stage and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, I heard those were bad kids. I heard they sat right in front of the TV, they didn't put their blocks away, they constantly spilt their milk. Those kids will not be missed." That's the kind of comedy he always does. He's a fucking psycho. He'll just say ridiculous shit like that.